First of all, a friend forwarded me a great pair of posts on the pros and cons of computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI). Sorry about all the acronyms, but apparently just PDAs (personal digital assistant- the actual hardware) isn't descriptive enough, plus all the cool kids are saying CAPI. So far, I agree with everything they write, all except for the fact that I haven't yet reaped the benefits of real-time data since I don't have real data just yet. I can see the light though.
However, I will second the high start-up and programming costs. I completely underestimated the amount of time it would take to program my survey into a digital format. I bought the software about a week before I left for Tanzania (five weeks ago) and I've been programming ever since. Granted, my time has also been filled with village leader meetings, focus groups, NGO meetings, translations, enumerator meetings and training. In an ideal world, I would have bought the software and started programming a full semester before traveling to the field, but I was rather occupied taking and teaching classes. Anyway, more to come late on the time frame of fieldwork (I've learned a lot).
In sum, I'd say the enumeration training last week was decent. A solid marginal pass (which, having just finished my prelims with the flying colors of MP, is totally acceptable). I have a few friends who have conducted enumeration training in other countries and have had substantial preparation or documentation for the week. I would say, as any CC4Ger would, that mine was more of a birth-by-fire. I asked a few of these friends for advice, wrote a some notes the morning of the training, and then I just got up and started talking... in a meager Swahenglish.
We started the training with seven people and had an evaluation mid-week to select the top four, although it was pretty obvious from the first day who they were. Although much of the training centered on learning to use the PDAs, because my surveys were barely functionally programmed at this point, we spent more time reading the paper surveys and ensuring we understood the question the exact same way. And then role-playing with the PDAs. Since the surveys have a male and female component, role playing was a bit like playing house with my field assistant (perhaps not surprisingly). Anyway, this week we started piloting (testing our ability to conduct the surveys in a non-sample village). Technically, the last day of piloting is tomorrow, which is frightening considering how much text and scripting I've changed today, but I'm sure it will all pan out.
My enumerators are made of two teams, a man and woman each. It's a small group, but they are excellent. It also may seem that data collection will take a long time with only two survey teams, but I'm confident that these teams are good decision. First of all, we only have one vehicle, so we are limited by (not seatbelts, duh) how many we squeeze in the back seat. Secondly, the male and female interview happen at the same time, with the male interviewing the husband and the female interviewing the wife. This means that the interview process itself only takes about an hour, leaving more time to travel to (and find) the next household. Additionally, privacy is crucial to my surveys. I have an entire section on family planning and an experiment at the end of the survey that includes the wife making a decision without the presence of her husband. Having the husband occupied by my male enumerator counting his chickens (literally) empowers this decision.
Anyway, I still have a bit more editing to do tonight. More to come later on the hilarious life of being a mzungu in Meatu.
Hat tip: US